Paula Xiberras

The Secrets We Keep is a novel by Tasmania’s own Shirley Patton, Shirley developed her love of reading from her parents who were avid readers of the Russian classics. In The Secrets we keep Shirley has written a gem of a classic detailing a time of growth in Australia and in her character’s lives.

It is a novel that depicts a time of seemingly greater freedom and openness in Australia, but ironically also a time where some secrets, the particularly damaging kind were kept close.

The main protagonist Aimee has been damaged by her past, a teenage pregnancy and having to give up her baby for adoption has encouraged Aimee to have a fresh start and relocate to Kalgoorlie to begin a career as a social worker to help those in need as she once was. At the office she begins work with the Steele family, the name is suggestive and indicative of the strength of the family as the wife and mum Kris, watches her husband’s health decline due to hard work as a miner. The couple are also grappling with a secret they are keeping from their daughter. After losing her husband Kris grows in strength as she works to prevent pollution and the loss of others in the mining town.

Meanwhile Aimee is enjoying working with her co -workers Lori and Paddy. Paddy is a former priest that is attracted to Lori, a young woman with the ability to tell the future through tea leaf reading, an ability discovered through her friendship with Agnes, the town psychic.

This novel demonstrates in its colliding storylines that even though sometimes we believe our futures are fixed, in keeping with the enlightened times of the novel and demonstrated through Kris’ crusade, we realise we have the ability to impact on and change our future. For Aimee, who has dealt with traumatic and tortued times she is able to start anew.

Shirley Patton holds a PhD in social work and a masters in creative writing, She utilises her expertise and skill in both, to bring us a well-crafted novel in which we are subtlety led to uncovering its secrets.

The Secrets We Keep is out now published by Harlequin.